At approximately 9:00 UTC, February 28 2018, Atlus pulled the plug on Demon’s Souls’ online servers, after nearly a decade of players fighting with and against each other in the kingdom of Boletaria.
Given that its unique multiplayer angle was such a key, compelling part of what made Demon’s Souls great, not to mention From Software’s first steps in its revolutionary history with online play, it was a sad day for lifelong fans, many of whom logged back onto the servers for the first time in years to get together and pay tribute to all the good memories they’d shared.
There were organised events and community-led in-game meetups that have been running since early January, as people blew the dust off their old PS3 consoles to reinstall Demon’s Souls and jump back in for one last hoorah.
Some even completed the entire game all over again, while others returned to face the bosses they could never defeat the first time round, this time aided by a community of willing and able adventurers.
Once the shutdown inevitably came, the mourning masses took to the internet to express a mixture of sadness and anger (some were angrier than others, after being logged out seconds before killing King Allant, the game’s final boss), but the silver lining is that everyone is now talking about Demon’s Souls again, looking back on what it meant to those of us who first played it in 2008.
In that spirit, several players have shared their thoughts with me via the game's Reddit page on what it’s been like to enjoy Demon’s Souls’ final moments as an online experience, and why its multiplayer was such a special part of its magic.
Praise the servers
Just to give you an idea of Demon’s Souls legacy, here’s Lacro_Kuder illustrating how much joy the game has given them over the last eight years since it launched in the West: “Three platinums in three regions with close to 4000 hours played, I logged on for the first time 12 hours after the game launched and never looked back. I even had a separate account set up just to invade people. [It was] an unbelievable amount of fun and enjoyment with memories that I will never forget.”
Then there’s players like Pedrokiko who, despite being a long time Dark Souls fan, barely touched Demon’s Souls before FromSoftware announced the servers were being shut down in November, at which point he borrowed his friend’s PS3 and logged on for what he describes as “a hell of a ride” over the last three months.
“Messages, bloodstains, co-ops, and invasions all had a sense of being absolutely essential and final”, he tells me. “It’s sad to know I will never meet those people in Demon’s Souls again either to headbutt, troll, or have unexpected friendly fist-fights and duels with people around the world.”
Despite it all, Pedrokiko looks back fondly upon Demon’s Souls final day as an online game, calling the experience a “golden send off [with] over 30 amazing invasions across all ranges, old Monk fights, troll invaders, and friendly co-ops. Being pressed for time trying to beat the game with a friend, trying to get through the dragon and constant invaders, and finally killing Allant in my friend’s world literally minutes before the servers go down. Couldn't ask for anything else, what a ride..”
You're still able to run through Demon’s Souls as a single player experience offline, of course, but to say it’s not quite the same would be a miserable exercise in understatement. Remember the Old Monk boss, who would summon in other players to kill you in a brilliant use of the game’s already inspired invasion mechanic? He just summons AI enemies now, and it’s nowhere near as impressive.
And it’s the invasions which most players will remember more than anything else, if my chats with other Demon’s Souls fans is anything to go by.
“I remember hearing about this mechanic but thought so few people were going to use it, it would never happen to me.” explains MikuxLuka401, describing the first time their game was invaded all way back in 2010. “Then that message popped up and my heart started pounding. My hands were sweaty and I remember fighting this person in the deep blackness of Tower of Latria. After I was defeated, I sat back and thought…’I sure hope that happens again’. One of the best moments in my gaming life.”
GradientGhoul shared a similarly fond memory from the early days of Demon’s Souls. “I remember getting the game and being amazed when seeing people’s phantoms, bloodstains, and reading (mostly hilarious) messages. It was something I had never experienced before in any game and it really deepens your connection to it. Also getting invaded for the first time was the most terrifying experience in my life to date... I loved it.”
Aside from nostalgically reminiscing, some fans are more optimistically perceiving this shutdown as an indication of something Souls related on the horizon, even if FromSoftware hasn’t outright confirmed anything beyond that PlayStation Experience teaser which may or may not have been teasing Bloodborne 2.
“I'm feeling kind of optimistic at the moment.” says lifelong Souls fan Nightmare_Rage. “I see there is a ton of support for a remaster, so I hope Sony is listening. I also find it suspicious how the Atlus, Sony, and Namco servers all shut down at the same time. It's as if an agreement has been made, behind the scenes, so maybe something is already in the works. Fingers crossed!”
But above all the heartfelt eulogies and exasperated rants, it’s MeetMattStryker’s comments that many Demon’s Souls players will be able to relate to, not least because it taps into that universal experience of having to say goodbye to the things we love.
“As in life, everything that we care about comes to an end at some point, but what matters are the amazing memories we still have. It was a unique experience, it’s sad that it ended, but I'm glad it happened.”
He couldn’t be more on the mark. If Demon’s Souls taught us anything, it’s that everything dies, and yesterday the grim reaper came knocking at the door for Demon’s Souls itself. It was a sad moment, yes, but one that nevertheless allowed us to celebrate FromSoftware’s cult classic as a community once again, and that - alongside all the good memories from nine years of Soulsing - is something we can cherish forever.